Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Heat Pump and Air Conditioner

heatpump-pdHeat Pump vs Air Conditioner

Heat pumps and air conditioners share all internal components, but their mode of operation is quite different. The mode of operation for heat pumps is known as the reverse refrigeration cycle, whereas air conditioners operate on a regular vapor compression cycle.
However, there’s a host of other factors that differentiate the two.

Use
Air conditioners are mainly used for cooling purposes, and maintaining conditions of comfort during high temperatures. As for heat pumps, their main function is to keep a room heated during very low atmospheric temperature conditions. However, the key difference between their uses is that a heat pump can be used for both heating and cooling purposes, while an air conditioner is strictly used to cool; although, if you are conscious about energy consumption, then an air conditioner will do better as its more energy efficient.

The condenser’s main function in a heat pump is to generate heating for the room, and it is put inside the room to be heated. The room is kept heated when air blows over the condenser and absorbs the heat, and then flows back into the room. However, the condenser in an air conditioner is used to expel heat into the atmosphere, and it is put outside of the room to be cooled.

The cooling effect provided by air conditioners is produced by the cooling coil, which is also the evaporator. This is the main functioning component in an air conditioner, and while it is located within the room to be cooled, in a heat pump it is located outside the room to be heated, and here it is used to absorb heat from the atmosphere that is at a lower temperature.

Performance wise, the coefficient of performance of a heat pump will always be more than one, whereas that of an air conditioner can either be one or less than one depending on the atmospheric temperature and the room conditions.

Comparing general use, heat pumps are ideal for year round use in places with moderate temperatures, for instance, in Mid South United States. It can be tuned for cooling during the hot summers and re-tuned for heating during Spring and Fall. For places that are fairly hot throughout the year, like South Florida and California, heat pumps would have little use, and it is best to invest in a more energy efficient air conditioner.

Summary:
Heat pumps use a reverse refrigeration cycle, while air conditioners use the regular vapor compression cycle.
Heat pumps primarily heat rooms, while air conditioners cool rooms.
Heat pumps use the condenser to generate heat, while in an air conditioner it is used to expel heat.
The coefficient of performance is always greater than one for a heat pump, while for an air conditioner it can be one or less.


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4 Comments

  1. In the southern U.S. heat pumps are growing in popularity. They efficiently cool your home, just like a regular central air system but they heat even more efficiently than a natural gas furnace in moderate climates.

  2. This is really a poor explanation of the difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner. The thermodynamics are identical, and the fundamental difference between the two is that a heat pump uses a reversing valve and some additional plumbing to move the refrigerant in the opposite way through the two heat exchangers. Efficiency for the cooling mode would be the same (for the comparable product), and in heating mode, you get relatively inexpensive (compared to electric resistance) heating from the same unit.

    The typical price differential for a residential heat pump doesn’t seem to correlate with the actual mechanical differences between them.

  3. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this
    information together. I once again find myself personally
    spending way too much time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  4. Let me add that a heat pump will cool and heat a building. In cooler climates a resistant heating coil is added to help raise the building temp on real cold days. Or perimeter resistant heaters that look like base boards.
    Think of a heat pump as a refridgerator. The cooling part, the freezer or cooling section is like the evaporater in the furnace or air handler that gets cold and the condensing coil, behind the refridgerator or today, they are underneath it. The freezer removes the heat from the food just like evaporator removes heat from us then expels the the heat thru or from the condensor outside. That heat you feel coming from the unit outside was once inside the building.
    In the winter time, the roles are reversed. The heat that was once coming off the outside unit is now going into your building and the unit outside will be cooling the outside. It has switched roles, that is the reason of the ‘switching valve’. Kinda a good invention.
    If not using a heat pump, you will heat with nat. gas, oil, propane, electricity or a fireplace.
    Back in the day, builders constructed “all electric homes” because the gas company did not have gas lines to the new developments so electric homes subdivisions were invented and given cheaper rates for power. Eventually the gas companies ran pipes passed these streets and people were able to connect to the lines. They did this because the price of power was going up slowly.
    But bottom line, it is all about money. It is too much to split hairs to save a couple bucks for home comfort year round. You do research and see what is best for you. Today, an AC system could last more than 15 yrs but may not. The guy that is giving you prices could be motivated by what the company wants to sell. Whether they get a bonus or commision for a unit sold or a TV or a vacation from the company. They are helping you out and you are helping them out.
    When it comes to a contract make sure all your questions are written on the contract that you spoke about. Get that in writing. Don’t sign it right then no matter what kind of tactics they use. They will talk to the guy then will turn to the woman ask the ask her about the price. She then turns to the guy and asks, what do you think? So think about it for a few days, get other quotes, the unit doesn’t work anyway. Steer clear of the salesperson that sez if you don’t get it now it will be another month to install.
    Ask questions Like what happens if it caps out after 6 months? Think about it, you get it installed in Sept and it is cool outside and don’t really use it that much, come springtime and it gets hot outside and now it is not working (cooling) the freon leaked out of it, and your warranty covers 6 months? Or the condensing unit springs a leak and you get a new condensing coil then it costs as much to install a brand new system that it does to install the coil? You pay for that again, if not. What kind of warranty is that? Or once it is installed the installer won’t call you back if you need a trouble call. It is crap shoot with all these companies. When getting different bids make sure all the bids match each other or are close to each other. Don’t sign right then.The bad ones all have a line of BS how they have so many years in the business. Who cares about that? A kid with 6 months could do a better job if it works when he leaves the job and it is fixed.
    The sad part is this day and age, we need heating more than cooling but we have become accustomed to cooling in our homes for summer comfort, who needs all that humidity when trying to sleep?
    Whew! I hope this helps.

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